Community detention and bovine-ban for tail-breaking Waikato farmer

The case was brought to court by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
The case was brought to court by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Photo credit: iStock

A Waikato dairy farmer has been disqualified from owning or being in charge of all bovine animals for three years as a result of a tail-breaking case involving more than 300 cows.

Glen Raymond Steiner appeared in the Tokoroa District Court on Wednesday for sentencing after the case was brought to court by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

Steiner earlier pleaded guilty to one representative charge of ill-treatment of animals.

Judge Snell took a starting point of six months' imprisonment and gave discounts for it being Steiner's first conviction, as well as his personal circumstances and early guilty plea. 

The 43-year-old contract milker was sentenced to four months' community detention and 120 hours' community work in addition to being disqualified from owning or being in charge of any bovine animal for three years. 

He was ordered to pay vet bills of $954. 

Judge Snell commented that Steiner's actions were in the upper limit of this type of offence and that the type of offending and its effect on the industry was significant.  

It could easily cause reputation harm to the dairy industry and the individual farming operation involved, he said. 

MPI animal welfare and National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) compliance manager Gray Harrison said the offending first came to light after a mob of dairy cull cows he sent to the meatworks were found to have tail breaks. 

"An MPI veterinarian reported the tail breaks, which led us to inspect the remainder of the herd at the dairy farm where Steiner worked," said Harrison.

Of the 313 cows that Steiner physically handled, the majority were found to have been handled in a way that caused tail breaks. 

More than 150 cows were found to have multiple breakages in their tails and 133 were determined to be recent breakages.  

In the agreed summary of facts, Steiner's actions were deemed to have caused "unreasonable and unnecessary" pain and distress to the cows in his care. 

As a contract milker, it was his responsibility to ensure all animals on the property were handled in a way that minimised pain, distress and injury; including tail breakages. 

Scientific research indicates it would require significantly more force to break a tail than dislocate a finger and the breaking of a tail or twisting would cause immediate, severe pain and distress.